After creating a name for herself as an expert in the HR and benefits administration industry, Rhonda Marcucci launched a consulting firm, Gruppo Marcucci (GPM), in 2005 to help people interested in navigating the benefits administration industry. GPM was recently purchased by Authur J. Gallagher.
HR Daily Wire spoke with Marcucci and asked her about her journey to launching her consulting firm and how she advises her clients.
Q: How did you get started in the HR and benefits administration industry?
A: I actually helped start a business unit at Marsh & McLennan for benefits administration for middle market clients in the late '90s, and I left in 2004. As I was establishing that business unit, I got to know everyone in the industry because we were looking for platforms and trying to figure out what that business model was going to look like. So after I left, my phone started ringing because people knew that I knew a lot about the business, and there were no independent consultants in the business at that time. And so I took on a project and then I took on another project, and pretty soon I had a consulting firm. So I always say I didn’t actually start my consulting firm, it kind of started me.
Q: What drew you to the industry?
A: Back in the late '90s when I first started in the industry, I was so excited about what the internet could do for a very difficult transaction, meaning the benefit enrollment transaction. And so what I saw back then was how a really difficult transaction for an employee and for an employer could become a lot easier using the internet. I would also say that what I saw and still see today is a lot of inefficiencies because it’s a very complex process, so I am very bullish on the future of this industry because there’s still a lot of challenges that we need to solve.
Q: How would you explain these complex transactions to someone with limited knowledge on how the HR and benefits administration industry works?
A: This is what I tell my mother: Benefits administration industry facilitates the delivery of care and claims to employees by facilitating the communication, the actual enrollment and the data that has to get to different places in order for claims and care to be delivered.
Benefits have become extremely complex between consumer-driven health plans and HRAs and HSAs, and wellness credits, and brand new products that keep coming out – that’s not something employees understand, and yet they are making decisions at least once a year about how these plans are going to help them get care and claims.
Q: Can you share one key piece of advice you offer your clients?
A: I always tell my clients -- no matter what kind of HR technology they are buying – that they really need to define their requirements upfront because we spend a lot of time helping employers replace technology because when they bought the technology, they didn’t do their homework, they didn’t define their requirement, so they bought usually based on what we call "the bright shining ball," which is the beautiful screens that are being shown to them. And there is more to it than the beautiful screens.
The other piece of information we give to our clients is that when you are buying technology, you are buying a big box of tradeoffs. What I mean by that is there’s no technology that’s perfect – that’s going to give an employer everything they need and want – and that’s why defining requirements is so important because you have to be willing to live with the fact that there is a set of tradeoffs and you’re not going to get everything you want.
Q: The American Pet Products Association reported that pet owners in the U.S. spent approximately $15 billion on vet care in 2015. However, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, only 9 percent of employers offer pet insurance. What are your thoughts on this?
A: I think employers should offer as many products and services to their employees as they possibly can. And I feel that way because, in the case of pet insurance which is a perfect example, how do you even know that it exists? Maybe through your vet… but I think that it is getting more and more important that employees place more and more value on the benefits they are getting from work. So I think employers should be looking at providing as many products as possible with a way to help employees make a decision on what product makes more sense to them, and that’s what technology can do.
Q: According to Forbes, most millennials estimate it will take an average of 11 years to pay off their student debt. Where is the industry in providing benefits to help employees pay off their student loans?
A: My sense is that this is in early stage, but it’s becoming important. And I would say that it’s not just the student loan payoff, it’s a bigger financial wellness piece that is kind of burgeoning up in the market as something really important. Employers have traditionally had benefit programs that have helped people with their health, and then they added on to that programs that help people with being well, which is tied to health. They also have programs to help people be mentally well – your EAPs – and now if you want to look at the whole person – we always talk about the whole person comes to work, not just one piece of the person because financial challenges that employees have affect productivity at work, just like health, (psychological) and emotional problems affect productivity at work.
I think we are going to see more and more financial wellness because if you think about what’s been going on – the cost of health care keeps going up and that increase is being funded by the employee. We haven’t seen big raises in years for employees, so employees are squeezed around their income.